At our meeting last month, Linda mentioned how our listening impacts people beyond the guests we serve. That we choose to listen, influences people peripheral to the LP. Linda spoke about how she was at dinner with friends and was asked something along the lines of, “How do you do it?” How do you listen? As if it is something mysterious and difficult. Linda demonstrated by looking them in the eye and asking “How are you?” and was ready to actually hear them. They got to see it, feel the simplicity of presence, for themselves.
This otherwise unnoticed peripheral impact of our service has come up for me this week. I was sitting with a companion who has heard me speak of the Listening Post for all the years I have been serving. But this time… something was different. A deep impact was palpable.
Although my companion has long respected the LP, he never felt drawn to become a volunteer himself. This time, though, sharing about the LP rang through him and he offered me a story of a time in his life, some twenty years ago, when he had been served during a devastating personal crisis. The detail of the memory that suddenly stood out to him was the moment when he woke in a hospital bed and there was someone quietly sitting beside him.
The man sitting there happened to be a volunteer for those in crisis. Part of his service was to let the person in the hospital know they are not alone in their particular form of suffering. This man had gone through, and survived, a similar situation to what my friend was suffering. The volunteer told of his own experience.
The memory of that moment left my friend admitting to me that he understands the difference between how he had been served – knowing that LP volunteers don’t share their personal stories – but now he poignantly saw the similarity between that man’s service and ours: shared presence.
In that moment he understood the LP in a new way. The man who shared his story with my companion, in addition to sharing, was present. Present with my friend exactly as he was. It landed with him, and it landed hard (in a good way!) that being present with others matters. Listening is only one form of presence.
My friend doesn’t live in AK so becoming an LP volunteer isn’t going to happen. But he is awakened to his own desire to serve. Impacted by what we do, and the resonance with his own experience, he is interested in finding a place where he can be present with others, simply to be there. Simply to be available. To listen, to share, to be there for another, as the moment presents itself.
We have seen, for a decade, that our commitment to listening impacts those we listen to. Now we are seeing that our commitment to listening even impacts those beyond our guests. It is fascinating, and humbling, to witness the peripheral impact of doing what we love.